CHICAGO, IL- Led by the biggest heartbreaker of them all in Brian “I haven’t had a beer since April” Hoyt, the LS Tigers overcame an early 4 goal deficit to defeat the Rhinos by 4 lousy points in easily the best game of the year thus far.
In front of a huge crowd at the lakeshore, a virtually full strength Rhino outfit came out firing against a very cocky Tiger line up that was missing cult figure Frank Bradley and their talls in Trimberger and new gun Jason Wilhelm. With the aid of a 1 maybe 2 goal breeze that was blowing towards the city end, it was the Rhinos who pounced and finally showed some of the ability that is in this team but as of yet, had not been seen. Drake had challenged several of his runners, in particular Ambrosino, Blundell and Borchardt all of who had barely tasted the leather in the first rounds and it was they that answered in kind, all playing rippers of games. Borchardt and Blundell across half back and Ambrosino in the middle and providing plenty of spark up front. But it was the new Rhino in Ortiz that set the crowd and the scoreboard alight with a lovely mark and goal early. Soon after it was McClamroch who banged one home after some lovely roving with a classic opportunists goal.
The Rhinos continued to attack and the Bradely- less Tiger backline was straining as they were finally asked a few questions. Brennan threw himself into the backline to stem the flow but it was big Kia Forte who presented and took a lovely mark 40 metres out on a slight angle. The Rooster went back and drilled home the Rhinos third to send the crowd in a tizzy. All of a sudden the famous Brennan- Uhlmann- Leibowitz midfield was struggling for possessions as Allen, Deehan and Drake ran riot with big Davey Choi dominating the ruck duels. Ortiz capped off a fabulous opening term for both he and the Rhinos with a great diving mark in front of the bumper crowd which he duly slotted through to send the Rhinos into the first break leading 4.1: 25 to 0.3: 3. This, it should be noted, was the first quarter the Rhinos had won all season thus far!
The Tigers are a force and it is not through luck that they have dominated the competition in recent seasons and it was they, after a big dressing down from Brennan at quarter time, who came out humming like the proverbial hooker. Fish Dhoory, thus far kept very quiet by a close checking John Scher was able to find space and his first mark and first kick resulted in the first goal for the Tigers. With the midfield heating up as Leibowitz and Uhlmann in particular started to get a lot more of the ball, it wasn’t long until the game opened up and both teams started to play some beautiful, end to end football that is a tribute to both Hendries coaching and the effort by so many to get to training. With little manning up by both sides in the guts, players like Uhlmann, Leibowitz, Allen, Blundell and Deehan were getting tonnes of ball and more importantly, the use of that ball was pretty good. Dhoory was able to again mark and goal to cut the deficit in half but a telling mark and goal by Wolfe gave the Rhinos a bit more breathing space. Still, both sides continued to attack and Brennan and especially Hoyt started to wear down the Rhino forwards as Meyer, Fitz and Dhoory became much more active up front for the Tige’s. Fitz, on that magnificent left foot booted home a goal just before the half to bring up the Tigers third as they signalled their intentions for the rest of the game and send them into half time a mere 9 pts down with Wrigleyville leading 5.1: 31 to LS’s 3.4: 22
The old adage that the 3rd quarter is the premiership quarter where games are won and lost has never rang as loud as it did on Friday night. Although the game is played with 16 on the field and is indeed an ultimate example of a team sport, every team needs their superstars and this game will forever be remembered for the ultimate footprint left on it by one David Fitzgerald. Playing out of position on a half forward flank, the dashing mollyduker had basically been unsighted in the first half except for a lone goal and being caught numerous times holding the ball. His next 15 minutes were scintillating however and set the proverbial cat amongst those pigeons. With Jack Thompson all but shutting down Oscar Meyer and Disco Panek playing like one Frank Bradley and marking just about everything coming his way, the Tiger avenues to goal weren’t that apparent but Fitz, roving the pack and breaking a couple of tackles slammed on his second soon after Hayes strated the third stanza. Minutes later, it was he again who outwitted the Rhino defence and in similar fashion banged in his second for the term. When he again saluted the judge the Tigers had hit the front and momentum had completely swung.
Leibowitz and Uhlmann were running riot through the center as Rhino loaners Dallas Moreland and big Nate started to win the ruck duels as Choi battled through a leg injury. Forte, Wolfe and McClamroch, extremely dangerous up until now were stranded in the forward line without access to the pill and despite numerous moves by Drake, still the Tigers attacked. Finally Borchardt was able to goal for the Rhinos to wrest back control of the lead but seconds later and after some more great work by Fitz who by now had 2 Rhinos running with him, Fish Dhoory found space after a kick in mishap by the Rhinos and goaled to bring up his third for the arvo. After a stunning quarter of Tiger football, the Tigers lead by 9 pts but on the siren, a great passage of Rhino football found a strong leading Forte whose huge grab was rewarded with a magnificent kick and goal which cut the Tiger lead and ensured a massive last term. At the orange break the Tigers led 7.6: 48 to 7.1: 45.
Drake threw himself into the ruck, Forte into the middle with Allen, Deehan went on to Fitz and big, bad Wolfey into the goal square to get things moving with some early success. The Rhinos again wrested momentum from the Tigers as Vince Dhoory limped from the ground with an ankle to join Bradshaw as an observer. Repeated forays forward found a stout Tiger defence but a big grab by Wolfe set hearts racing but his shot from 15 out on a tight angle was a shocker and netted the single hand salute from Pat Hoyt. Still the Rhinos came and a long ball in from Ortiz was met by McClamroch who was having a great game. He marked in heavy traffic and inexplicably played on, Ambrosino like, to give his coach a near fatal heart attack but his wobbly punt sailed through to put the Rhinos back in the lead. The Rhinos seemed to have all the running now as Allen, Forte and Deehan threw everything they had at the ball and Thompson, Dorsett, Blundell, Borchardt and Scher gave everything in defence to constantly thwart Tiger advances. Leibowitz and Uhlmann were working tirelessly for the Tigers and big games out of their imports in Dallas, Jeff, Nate (Rhinos) and Pedro (Piranha) were helping. Pat McHale was playing a ripper for them across half back as was Hoyt, Nolan and Art Ortiz. When Ortiz reeled in his 12th mark for the game and handballed to a dashing Forte, the Rhinos looked winners and his long bomb in was again coralled by little McClamroch who had been splendid until now. The little man from Cinci again played on but this shot, much easier than the first, sailed wide and left the door slightly ajar for the Tigers who were having trouble getting through the Rhino defence.
Players all over the field were tiring and when Thompson again spoiled Meyer, it was his dash and handball that sent Drake clear down the wing. Drake found a dashing Toby Allen and all Rhinos pushed forward as they sniffed another goal. A HUGE holding the ball decision against Allen though had the Rhinos and their fans baying for Hayse blood and the Tigers, on the rebound through Leibowitz (I’m getting tired of typing that name… lets call him Matt from now on) found an out of position Thompson ahead of him and a lone Warrick Capper look alike in Oscar Meyer. Meyers mark and goal from 30 in front shot the Tigers back in front with mere seconds left. From the ball up, Matt read the Drake tap and shot the Tigers forward where the game was blown dead by the umpire Hayse to leave 40 exhausted men lying around in front of a crowd of 50 who had not let their eyes wander for a second despite the talent parading along the walkway.
In a game for the ages, the Tigers snatched an unlikely victory to further distance themselves from the pack on the Metro ladder. They will look at this game as a scare to their air of invincibility though and look to Bradley to shore up the defence once again in June when they are due to face Roofy and the Piranhas. As they sweat on Crabs Dhoory’s injury, they will be ecstatic with the efforts of Matt and Billy who were the keys to this victory and with the brilliance of Fitz and Fish up forward, they had just enough in the tank to pull this out. Hoyt and Brennan were solid in defence and some telling spoils by Hoyt on Drake and Dallas Moreland on Forte late in the game showed the value of those one percenters.
The Rhinos however, will rue this one for a long time. For three quarters they were clearly the better team but some absolute clangers in front of goal and some mistakes around the ground left them on their knees in front of the machine that is the LS Tigers. This game could be a turning point for the Rhinos this season though as they got big games out of Gordo, McClamroch, Borchardt and Blundell. Thompson was magnificent on Oscar and the emergence of Ortiz as a legitimate forward was great for all to see, particularly a smiling Hendrie. Panek looks like he is back to his old self and Toby Allen showed the United selectors that he is all class. Choi was excellent until the corky slowed him down and Jeremy Morgan, playing back in defence, showed some of his best form for nigh on three years. Moreland and Creely, the latest Rhino recruits, were both fantastic in their first games but when that game was for the opposition it is hard to crow about it! Both are former American footballers and their athleticism is stuff for the record books and if they can get to training and become a part of this football code, United and the Rhinos will be the better for it.
|Goals||Tigers: Fitzgerald (4), Doorhy J (3), Meyer
Rhinos: Ortiz (2), McClamroch (2), Forte (2), Wolfe, Borchardt
|Best||Tigers: Fitzgerald, Doorhy J, Uhlmann, Leibowitz, Hoyt B, Moreland
Rhinos: Ortiz, McClamroch, Forte, Borchardt, Allen T, Thompson
3- Fitzgerald (LS) 3- Allen (WV)
2- Allen (WV) 2- Fitzgerald (LS)
1- Ortiz (WV) 1- Hoyt (LS)
Drake (WV) for Rough Conduct in messing up Oscars hair. When asked for a please explain after the game, Drake was quoted as saying “Oscar has never put his head over the ball in 5 years here, the opportunity was too good to pass up”. A ‘groggy’ Meyer said he felt nothing and although waking up with a headache the following morning and a feeling of nausea, a big Irish breakfast and some B- B- B-Berroccas’ fixxed him up ok.
$20 Brownstone Award:
David Ortiz (WV)